Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Have Seen The Lord, And He Said These Things To Me.

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Reading I
Acts 2:36-41
On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.
Today we see the first and immediate results of Peter’s proclamation of the Gospel message.

After Peter’s proclamation his hearers are “cut to the heart”, deeply moved and shaken, and sincerely ask what they should do. It reflects both their belief in what they have just heard about Jesus and regret over former rejection.

They are told to “repent”. Repentance was important in the message of the forerunner, John the Baptist (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3), in the preaching of Jesus (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3) and in the directions Jesus left just before his ascension (Luke 24:47).

‘Repentance’ implies not just regret for the past but, much more positively, a radical change to one’s way of thinking and behaving. It translates the Greek word metanoia of which the nearest English translation is something like ‘conversion’, a turning around to a completely new way of seeing life. This they pledge through being baptised and having their former sins forgiven and left behind, and receiving the gift of the Spirit.

Each of the great apostolic addresses in Acts finishes with a call to conversion leading to full reconciliation with God.

This is in fulfilment of the promises made by God in the past and extended not only to the Jewish people but also “for all those who are far away”. We are told that on that very day - the day of Pentecost - 3,000 people became followers of Jesus the Lord. Luke always likes to note the Church’s numerical growth and does so several times in the Acts.

A reading like this is a call for all of us to renew our own commitment and to make the necessary conversion (metanoia) to bring us closer to Christ and the Gospel. It is also a reminder for us to share the Easter message with others. We may not have the same response that Peter got but if we all brought one person to Christ what a difference it would make to their lives - and ours!
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Psalm 33
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
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John 20:11-18
Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.
After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?

She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.

Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).

Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.

With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the Father”. A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”

The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.

Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.

So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.

It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little" (Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

The way Mary Magdalene mistakes Our Lord for the gardener also reminds me of the parable (Luke 13:6-9) in which a gardener pleads for a reprieve for an unfruitful fig tree and undertakes to dig manure around its roots for another year. The Resurrection is the beginning of our 'year of grace'.

The question 'Whom are you looking for?' is the same as Jesus asked the cohort and temple guards in another garden: Gethsemane. It's that unavoidable question again, like 'Who do you say that I am?'.

Mary Magdalene is looking for the body of Christ. There is obviously something eucharistic about that fact. When she finds the body, it is not just dead matter, but the body, blood, soul and divinity of her risen Lord. She wants to embrace Him, but He tells her she cannot do this until He has ascended to God. It seems like an illogical answer, but makes me think of the eucharist as a kind of embrace, not just for Mary Magdalene but for everyone.